A 305 Nogent, 20th November 1945 from Madeleine (Daupeley)
I have owed you a reply for some time, but Pierre has had a bout of flu’ and I have had to attend to the print works and that has taken up a lot of my time. I had your last letter just before All Saints and I had just had a letter from Mrs Leplanq, asking me for a very fine, white spray of chysanthemums, that she could pick up before going to Brunelles. I got a second, identical, one for Miss Young. Mrs Leplanq took it with hers to put on her son’s grave and you can tell your friend that Mrs Leplanq was very touched by the gesture..
We were happy to see Mrs Leplanq again, and wanted her to spend a little time with us, but the driver of the car was in a hurry, as he had to be in Brunelles at 10.30 am, and on the way back she only just managed to catch her train back to Paris. What a sad journey, but she is to be admired for her courage and for accepting what has happened. She was very disappointed to learn that you wouldn’t be able to come to France this winter. She is very anxious to see you, so that she can talk about her dear departed son.
You had said that Miss Young wanted there to be forget-me-nots placed on the grave. This is the time to plant some, so I have brought some on, with that idea in mind. So I am going there in a couple of days to put them on the grave.
What must you think of the French? And our shameless behaviour. Today’s the day that General de Gaulle’s fate is being decided. What will become of him them?
You just cannot credit it that the same man who raised France’s honour on high again, which is what we so earnestly wanted to happen, should now be thrown out. We really don’t know what to make of it all. The French do not deserve him. In Britain you must be very disappointed. The summary of the British press today has harsh words to say about France. Unfortunately these words ring true. Looked at from outside, what are our prospects now?
However, everyone seems to be very worried. In any case, you can’t see Thorez [Communist party leader] replacing de Gaulle. It would be absolutely outrageous.
Here we are very frightened by what has been happening recently. It’s a matter of our very livelihood. As small business-people, we feel that control of our lives is now slipping out of our hands. We still hope that international demands will restrain our elected government. If they were in a close alliance with Great Britain, they would necessarily be forced to moderate their actions.
I didn’t tell you that Jacques passed his baccalaureate in October. He got very good marks and is now doing his final year in the lycée. He is delighted to have put this first stage behind him, but he is sorry that he can do only one hour of English per week. He had done German as his second foreign language and did very well in that as well. In fact, he had many opportunities to speak it, because, unfortunately, we had German billeted in our house for five years, and we were really lucky to have an interpreter during difficult moments. Last year, with no German teacher, he switched to Spanish, and passed his baccalaureate with that as his second foreign language. He did it every day with an excellent woman teacher, who came to Nogent and was stranded here at the time of the great exodus in 1940. Jacques really has a great gift for foreign languages and we would like to use these tendencies to equip him for life. In addition, if he passes his pre-university year, he will probably enrol for a degree in English next year.
We don’t know what the future will bring: true, the printing business is going very well, we shall have plenty of work, restrictions on paper have been lifted for doing the scientific works we print – and all that was lacking after five years of slow-motion existence. But costs are enormous and constantly rising. The future of firms like ours is linked to many external forces and the future is uncertain.
Our son must be able to fend for himself in life, if it becomes necessary. He must also leave Nogent and learn more than the narrow, petty-minded mentality, prevalent in our small towns, and which have become even more disappointing with the war. For the moment, he would very much like to have an English pen-friend, who is about the same age as him – he’s 17 in January, So, my dear Nancy, I thought that you might possibly know a young lad, who wants to improve his French, or even just wants to exchange letters in English. We would be most happy to have him here for the holidays. Jacques would be most grateful – he’s afraid to write to you himself to ask you to help him. He did think he would do so when you came to Nogent. Like us he was very disappointed to learn that your journey has been put off until the Spring, but we understand perfectly that, at this time of the year, it is difficult for you to get away, even if you can get your visa.
I don’t know if you have seen Mrs J…She went back with her daughter to spend the winter in Britain and is then due to return to Nogent. I have given her your address, because she would be pleased to meet you. She is staying with her parents; Mrs Sterett, 11 Zorriano Cottages, Kentish Town, NW5. Her mother came to see her daughter at the end of the Summer. She is very nice and Jacques was lucky enough to be able to converse with her.
We also had the pleasure, on many occasions, of putting up Canadians, going to visit the Loire Chateaux, but unfortunately they were not with us for long, arriving in the evening for dinner and leaving the following morning. They are really charming and much more ‘like us’ than the Americans. You cannot imagine, my dear Nancy, how very happy we were to have all these young men in our home, men who had come to our aid, after we had endured so much suffering during the Occupation.
After the Liberation, our house had stayed a hotel, but with you it is different and, on the contrary, this will be a real pleasure and all we need to make it complete is your presence.
I see that I have plenty to say and I’ll soon bore you with all my stories, but I am so happy to be able to chat away to you like this.
I hope that your parents are still in good health and I trust that you will all have a good winter. Life in Britain has probably got easier. Here, there is a really big change, as far as food supplies are concerned, but prices need to come down, because many people, especially those on fixed incomes, cannot afford to buy anything.
I’ll leave you now, dear Nancy, as I’m writing a whole journal account here. Please excuse the length. From all three of us, please accept our fondest good wishes, for you and also your parents.
I am enclosing a photo of Jacques. You definitely won’t recognize him. It’s a recent one, taken in September.
I don’t know if photos are allowed in letters, but in case they do reach you, we shall send a few photos of Nogent and the war damage.